India must take the lead in Paris

West must put up its hand and not try to stifle India’s bid for a unified agreement

The world has moved a long way forward from the Copenhagen climate change summit and human action to combat it. In the intervening six years, scientific knowledge has prompted us more towards greater conviction of the need to reduce carbon emissions. US President Barack Obama may have done the unthinkable when he gate-crashed a BASIC powers meeting in “Hopenhagen” to extract some kind of commitment from China, which, like the US, was one of the world’s foremost polluters.

Since then a greater universal understanding among 200 countries has been created and attempts to roll back global warming by limiting the temperature to pre-industrial-revolution levels, or at least reining in the rise to below 2 degrees Celsius since 1900, are being accepted as the solution to seek. The question ahead of the crucial Paris summit opening on Monday, as always, is who should do what and who will pay for employing green energy technologies.

India’s principled stand of shared — not equal but differentiated — responsibility can go a long way in defining the parameters. Of course, the West must put up its hand and not try to stifle India’s bid for a unified agreement on carbon emissions, particularly from coal — which, despite what the world likes to believe, still supplies 41 per cent of global electricity and 29 per cent of the world’s energy. The needs of developing countries towards growth are pegged to the use of dirtier fossil fuel for a longer period before alternative technologies kick in. It is also up to India not to be distracted by what US secretary of state John Kerry may be trying to achieve through comments meant to break the unity among emerging world economies.

India has been prepared to go beyond the arithmetic of who polluted the world and how much, and what proportion of carbon footprint targets should be allowed now to individual countries. The developed world must now find an equitable solution that takes into consideration the growth priorities of India and others rather than speak figures only in absolute terms, as reflected in India being the third-largest polluter, but with 1.25 billion people to look after.

The ballpark figure of $100 billion for efforts to control climate is not unreasonable; this might even come down as the costs of harnessing solar and wind energy have been steadily falling. However, regardless of how much we exhort on behalf of the weak countries, India should move quickly on a lot of our intentions, including making our dirty coal cleaner and solving the riddle of evacuating energy from renewable sources to facilitate distribution and effective use. The sight of our cities — starved of water, and green cover — is enough for us to know we have to do something very quickly. Let’s begin to act.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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